OLDHAM have pulled off a coup by signing former Rochdale and North Wales Crusaders back-row man Gary Middlehurst.
Aged 32 and widely regarded as one of the best forwards in the Kingstone Press divisions, he only arrived back in the UK nine days ago after a round-the-world trip with his wife Kelly.
Several clubs expressed early interest, but Oldham prevailed to the delight of chairman Chris Hamilton and coach Scott Naylor.
“He’s signed a contract to November 30,” said Hamilton, adding: “A few clubs were after him and we worked hard to get his signature.
“He’s a top player and we’re confident he will make a big contribution this season.”
Starting his career at Widnes, he has spent the last three seasons at North Wales after a two-year stint at Rochdale.
Following closely on the heels of the comprehensive 38-16 defeat of Dewsbury Rams, the Middlehurst capture can be regarded as a statement of intent by Roughyeds, who are determined to consolidate in their first season in the Championship.
Said head coach Naylor: “Whenever we’ve played Crusaders in the past three years, Gary has been one of their top men.
“He works hard, plays the game tough — that’s how I like it — and he never takes a backward step. That is very important in the Championship.
“We are fortunate to get him. He will be a great addition to the squad. I’m looking forward to seeing him in the Oldham jersey.”
Middlehurst links up with Oldham at training tonight, but he expects to be working on his fitness for a couple of weeks before he gets his first game.
He added: “I’m naturally fit, so it won’t take me long.
“I’m looking forward to a new challenge, a new club and a new set of lads.
“I used to watch Scott (Naylor) when he was a player, and now he’s going to be coaching me. I’m looking forward to that too.
“At 32, some people might say I’m getting on a bit, but I’ve got a couple of good years left in me yet.”
He won a players’ player-of-the-year award at Spotland and two similar awards at Crusaders.